A set of robot-driven video screens developed for performances by Bon Jovi and deadmau5 are now dazzling viewers on Royal Caribbean Quantum and Anthem Class ships. Six 100" video screens attached to six industrial robots from ABB Robotics are taking the advances in plant automation into the on-board world of cruise entertainment.
Each of the new cruise ships feature a showroom with 270-degree panoramic sea views through floor-to-ceiling glass walls spanning almost three decks at the stern of the ship. While these are living rooms by day, they transform into an entertainment center at night, seamlessly blending live performances with cutting-edge visual technology, highlighted by six ABB RoboScreens attached to a gantry above the main stage.
A RoboScreen is a graphical screen mounted to the arm of an ABB articulated arm robot, which offers unlimited, 6-axis movement to the video media. The RoboScreens feature ABB IRB 6620 robots that hold 100" diagonal Daktronics LED screens. The screens display video and imagery while performing choreographed movements that are custom produced for the specific performance.
The RoboScreens were developed by Andy Flessas (aka andyRobot) in conjunction with ABB. The RoboScreens first gained prominence in 2010 when five large models travelled the globe as main-stage props for the Bon Jovi Circle Tour. They are also deployed in the Las Vegas house show for deadmau5.
On the cruise ship, the RoboScreens assemble in various formations, such as six screens in a row to form one continuous, long screen; a three by two stack to form one big square screen; or a serpentine row, much like a 'W' and a 'V' strung together. When the screens are together they display one large cohesive video or image, and when they are apart they display individual, coordinated images that jump from screen to screen. The combined choreography of screen movement and on-screen display provides a new automated twist the video entertainment experience.
One of the challenges in developing robots for entertainment is that each iteration has to be new. Unlike plant automation, where you get to perfect a system, with entertainment you start with new concepts each time.
"The entertainment industry is all about the wow factor and freshness. This means everything you do at the presentation level is new, and therefore a one-off," Nicholas J. Hunt, manager of product technology at ABB Robotics, tells Design News. "On the robot side we try to provide software tools and standardized hardware packages that will accommodate the needs of the production company, the director, the creative content group, and of course the end customer. Some of our deliverables can work for them right out of the box. Other items require developing a quick solution."
The RoboScreens are run by Show Builder software, a library of pre-programmed choreography building blocks that producers can select from to model the RoboScreen movements. The library components are created using a Maya-based Robot Animator software package co-developed by andyRobot and the ABB RobotStudio simulation software team. A show is ultimately produced by selecting building block movements from the library in succession until the choreography is complete.
While robotic entertainment may have a big Gee Wiz factor, it still relies heavily on features developed for plant automation. "Keep in mind that robots were conceived and designed to boost production output and quality," said Hunt. "The first few times I talked to Andy about a project involving a monitor on the end of a robot, I told him he was nuts. But I quickly learned to take a step back and accept that maybe there are uses beyond the needs of the manufacturing sector."
The robot screen performances will be on both the Quantum and Anthem Royal Caribbean cruise ships. The Quantum of the Seas is scheduled to launch in November of this year, and Anthem of the Seas will launch in April 2015.